Stages of Change Theory

The Prochaska and DiClemente Stages of Change Theory1 states that people go through five stages when making a change in behavior. The stages range from pre-contemplative with no plans to change to a maintenance stage where the person practices the desired behavior consistently. They include:

  • Pre-contemplation: Not even thinking about change. People might be motivated to change by increasing their awareness of the problem behavior and providing information.
  • Contemplation: Starting to think about a change. Ambivalence might be decreased by identifying pros and cons of change and giving patients support.
  • Preparation: Planning for change, thinking of ways to change. Educators can identify rewards and help make action plans.
  • Action: Actually making the change. To bring about change educators can help patients set short-term goals and provide support. Educators also can help patients solve problems as they arise.
  • Maintenance: Continuing new behaviors, recovering from relapse. These patients need continued support, help with problem solving and recovery from lapses.


1. Prochaska J, Norcross J, DiClemente C. Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. New York City: Avon Books; 1994.